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Heavy Sunday snow brings traffic woes

COVINGTON - Area law enforcement is reporting a low crime weekend, but traffic collisions from Sunday's snowfall kept officers hopping.

"We just took it one wreck at a time," Newton County Sheriff's Office spokesman Lt. Mark Mitchell said. "We worked a lot of single-vehicle accidents during the storm itself and from ice (Monday) morning. It was mostly due to losing control and going off the roadway, and we had a lot vehicles that were stuck. We were very lucky with the amount of snow and ice we had that there were no serious injury accidents."

Mitchell said the NCSO received numerous calls about trees down in the roadway and either notified public works, or in some cases, deputies took care of the problem themselves.

"We had a couple of officers out who had chainsaws and were able to clear some of the debris from the roadway," he said.

Mitchell said the worst of the storm seemed to occur right at dusk Sunday, between 5 and 7 p.m.

"There was a lot of snow on the roadways and it built up pretty quick," he said. "Monday morning, about daybreak was the worst time. There was about a quarter of an inch of ice on the roadways. Both the sheriff's office and the city of Covington were assisting in rerouting traffic and getting crews out to spread salt and gravel. It was pretty rough as far as traffic goes. We even had people from the community with four-wheel drives helping us out with pulling people out of ditches."

Mitchell said it appeared that the eastern portion of the county fared the worst and warned motorists to be aware of potential hazards this morning.

"Just because the roadway looks dry, don't let it fool you. There will probably be some black ice. And just because the roadway is clear in one spot, it doesn't mean that there won't be problems in the next stretch of road," he said.

Lt. Wendell Wagstaff with the Covington Police Department, which logged 17 storm-related crashes over the weekend, echoed those sentiments, warning that it appeared major thoroughfares would be clear, but secondary roads would refreeze Monday night.

"We're asking anyone who sees any spots that they think could be a problem to call and report it and we'll get some sand put down," he said.

Also, he cautioned that the strip of roadway between Pizza Hut and CVS on U.S. Highway 278 is typically dangerous.

"Water runs down that hill and it becomes a sheet of ice," he said. "A lot of times motorists don't see it because it's black ice."

He advised motorists to leave plenty of room for stopping between their car and the one in front of them.

"A lot of the crashes we saw were due to not putting enough space between vehicles and folks were driving down the road and not able to stop when somebody stops in front of them," he said.

The Georgia State Patrol worked 15 wrecks Sunday, nine of which were in Newton County. Operator Alexander said there were four injuries associated with the nine wrecks, but no fatalities. She said Interstate 20 was shut down briefly to clear an accident, but it was never completely closed due to weather.

Deputy Director Jody Nolan of Newton County Emergency/Risk Management said his office assisted 911 dispatchers Sunday night in notifying crews of downed trees.

"We were trying to take some of the load off dispatch," he said. "We were getting calls about downed trees blocking roadways and dispatching those calls to public works. They were handling them pretty quickly."

Barbara Knowles can be reached at barbara.knowles@newtoncitizen.com.